Just Be Yourself

In the course of trying to get better at dating, there will inevitably be times where someone in your life is going to give you what is possibly the most useless dating advice ever: “Just be yourself”. After all, presumably you want someone who wants you for you and not whatever dubious achievements you may have or your material possessions. Besides, Studly Goodnight over there got his girlfriend by just being himself, so shit’s gotta work, right?

The idea to “just be yourself” is one of the most trite and hated stock dating advice phrases, right up there with “You’ll find a girlfriend when you least expect it” in terms of uselessness and banality, and yet it’s the truism most handed out by well-intentioned people who presumably mean well and want to help.

...or DO they?

…or DO they?

The problem is that “just be yourself” is a cop-out, handed out so freely that it’s become what we say when we don’t have anything else to offer. It’s so broad as to be functionally meaningless. After all, if you’re swallowing your ego and going to people asking for advice on attracting women or men, it’s a pretty damn good sign that whatever you’re doing already isn’t working.

But then again… they’re not entirely wrong either

The Value of Authenticity

Too often when people are trying to get better at dating, they spend a lot of time trying to be something other than who we are. They may spend a lot of time trying to portray ourselves as “high status” even when they aren’t. They play the value game, trying to demonstrate their higher value – DHVs in PUA lingo – by taking on outward trappings of what they assume high-value people are like. They will stretch the truth about their jobs in an attempt to look more glamorous – implying that they’re a professional poker player for example or that work as an AR scout for a record label when in reality they place the orders for their local Barnes and Noble1. They may dress like MMA fighters when they can’t throw a punch or rockstars despite having never so much as touched a musical instrument since their parents quit taking them to piano lessons in the 2nd grade. They will tell stories about their stripper ex-girlfriends who got crazy jealous or talk about the model they used to date. They may pool their money for bottle service at a club and try to create the image that they’re high-rollers.

“Remember: you’re the CFO of Facebook and I invented dice.”

They may try the common tactic of trying to show interest in women while looking like they could care less; after all, a “high-value” man wouldn’t tip his hand and show how invested he is in one particular woman. Many may use  lines and pre-scripted routines from well-thumbed copies of The Game or PUA forums to create the impression that they’re cooler, funnier and more confident than they really are – borrowing from the idea that if you can’t dazzle them with your scintillating wit and charm, you can always baffle them with your bullshit.

Women, on the other hand, may try to play down their actual intelligence or be less assertive in order to avoid intimidating men. They may experiment with the presentation of their sexuality – dialing it back to create the image of being more innocent or pretending to be more sexually forward than they are – in order to conform to the perception of how women are “supposed” to be. Some may tease the idea that they are bisexual in order to titillate men while others will downplay their sexual experience for fear of being thought of as “slutty”.

The problem with these tactics is that they’re an attempt to portray yourself as something other than who you really are. You may be able to fake the outward trappings of someone else’s identity, but you’re still you inside… and that will always end up coming to the forefront. The multitude of tiny little signals and cues to your real identity will always overpower whatever canned material you use and create a cognative dissonance between your words and your actions. Your made up identity will be incongruous with who you are inside and no amount of gimmicks or playing to stereotypes will overcome that.

Trying to maintain that false persona is mentally exhausting and – more importantly – fundamentally dishonest. The best you can hope for is a short-term gain that evaporates like Manti Teo’s girlfriend as soon as anyone starts to look too closely.

That having been said: just because you’re authentically you doesn’t mean that you’re home free.

Sometimes “You” Are Holding Yourself Back

It’s an unfortunate truth that sometimes the “You” that is presented to the world isn’t exactly the most attractive version that you could be putting forward. This is not to say that it’s a matter of winning the genetic lottery for facial symmetry or  embracing the Paleo diet and performing two hundred crunches every morning. Humans are complex, layered beings and attractiveness is more than just a matter of physical looks; you can have Jake Gyllenhaal’s face and Ryan Reynold’s abs and still finding out the hard way that Saturday night is the loneliest night of the week because you’re a relentlessly negative asshole that people can’t stand to be around.

A person’s identity is more than just what’s on the surface… and so are the issues that may be hindering you in your dating life.

Some issues are strictly ones of presentation – a bad hair cut, for example, or ugly, ill-fitting clothes will tell people that you’re someone who doesn’t care about themselves and will only serve to highlight whatever flaws you have. Poor hygiene will drive people away from even the most attractive face and figure.

Oh sure, he's pretty and all but the dude smells like patchouli and feet.

Oh sure, he’s pretty and all but the dude smells like patchouli and feet.

Other issues lie just below the surface: a lack of social experience for example, that means you may have the best of intentions but you end up creeping people out by accident. These are often matters of ignorance – problematic, but correctable with time and practice.

Other problems, however, lie deeper still. Being your authentic self isn’t going to help if you’re angry and resentful because you aren’t being handed the sex you think you’re “owed” by virtue of being a Nice Guy. If you’re a relentlessly negative person, people aren’t going to want to spend much time in your company. If you’re the sort of person who likes to “keep it real” by being blunt and rude to others,  no matter how witty you think you are, you are going to have a harder time making friends and finding lovers than someone who knows how to help other people have fun and genuinely appreciates their company. House and Sherlock are only sexy to people on Tumblr because they don’t have to deal with them on a daily basis. Anyone who had to interact with them in the real world would think they’re just creepy assholes.

"Don't worry about your pathetic shell of a love-life. It would just mean taking time away from your busy crying-while-masturbating schedule anyway."

“Don’t worry about your pathetic shell of a love-life. It would just mean taking time away from your busy crying-while-masturbating schedule anyway.”

In addition, your lifestyle is a part of who you are as much as your looks or personality. You may be a great person, but if your daily life is just to hang around the house playing Xbox and watching cat videos… well, your actions will be screening out 99% of the population of available singles.

“You” Are A Fluid Concept

This isn’t to say that you’re doomed to be Forever Alone because of who you are. The concept of “You” is far more fluid and malleable than most people would think. We change who we are – who we truly are – all the time; after all, we’re not the same person we were when we were 10, or 20, or 30. We are constantly being shaped and moulded by our experiences, our beliefs, even our day-to-day experiences. A bad break up can leave us bitter and resentful and mistrustful of others while a sudden shock – a near-death experience for example – can inspire us to live life to the fullest instead of taking everything for granted.

We change. We grow. We try new things, discover that old things don’t please us or work as well as we would hope and so we discard them and move on.

In short: change is possible. I’m night-and-day different from the person I was in high-school and college. If you were to approach the me of 1999 and tell him of everything I’ve done in just the last five years, he’d laugh in your face… at least before demanding stock tips and lottery numbers. Just in case.

"Look, nothing personal but I'm not going to just trust someone who hangs out in a weird blue box."

“Look, nothing personal ‘future me‘ but I’m not going to just trust some freakazoid who hangs out in a weird blue box.”

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that deliberately changing who “you” are is easy or effortless. In fact, it can be some of the hardest things you’ve ever had to do. Surface changes – learning how to dress better and adopting more confident body language – is relatively simple. Deeper changes – working to become a more positive person, for example, or overcoming self-limiting beliefs – means trying to break the habits of years, if not a lifetime. Some issues will be easier to overcome than others. Some may require seeking out professional help. But all of it requires a willingness to examine just who you are.

Gnosthi Seauton (or: Don’t You Fucking Know What You Are?)

Being yourself – your authentic self – means that first you have to know yourself. Whether you’re happy with yourself or wish things were different, you have to be willing to examine who you are with complete honesty. This means that you have to be willing to accept responsibility for your life; you and you alone are the ultimate arbiter of how you came to be who you are.

It means that you have to be willing to acknowledge your faults, fully and honestly without trying to put the blame on others; it’s counterproductive and serves to keep you from taking complete ownership of your life. You are not too pure for this sinful world, and if you’re consistently misunderstood or overlooked… well, sometimes the only common denominator in your life is you.

But at the same time, you have to be willing to fully and honestly acknowledge your good points as well. Too many people dwell on their supposed flaws and imperfections, all the while minimizing their strengths and aptitudes as “unimportant” or “not real”. This behavior is equally as self-indulgent and unattractive as someone who’s self-image is so hyper-inflated that they think they’re the greatest thing since World War III. It can be difficult to be aware of our strengths at times; often it’s actually harder to believe we have them at all. It’s easier to be hyper-aware of the bad and undesirable in our lives than it is to appreciate the good as well.

All of us are alloys of our good and bad sides, and ignoring or pretending that either of them don’t exist is counter-productive.

“But I Shouldn’t Have To Change…”

Whenever you bring up the idea of adopting changes in one’s life, especially when it comes to a person’s identity, there will always be a certain amount of resistance. After all, we come from a culture that values rugged individualism and not bowing or bending in the face of pressure from others. And to be fair, a refusal to blindly conform to other people’s ideas of who you “should” be is admirable. There’s a lot to commend in someone who is willing to walk his or her own path regardless of what the others around them may say or do and it speaks to their inner strength of personality.

But at the same time, an obstinate refusal to change in the face of facts is neither noble or a testament to a person’s character. If being “yourself” is contributing to making yourself miserable, holding onto that identity as some sort of sense of righteousness is just shooting yourself in the metaphorical foot. Foolish consistency, to quote Emerson, is the hobgoblin of little minds, and this is equally true when dealing with your identity as it is with following rules mindlessly because it’s always been that way.

"Fuck you, I'm a special little snowflake and the world needs to learn to accept me as I am!"

“Fuck you, I’m a special little snowflake and the world needs to learn to accept me as I am!”

It’s a question that I’ve seen come up frequently, and one I’ve had to ask in my life – should I change part of who I am in order to be more liked/popular/accepted by others, or is that a betrayal of who I am inside? Frankly, it’s not a question with an easy answer. Every choice comes with consequences, and it’s worth examining them. It’s always a question of whether making that change – and compromising one’s sense of self – is worth the rewards and whether it brings you closer to who you want to be. In my case, I didn’t realize it at the time, but my resistance to change was equally about fear and uncertainty as it was a principled stand against the forces of conformity. I had to decide whether I was happy with who I was and whether I could accept that things weren’t going to change unless did first.

So I always ask: “So, being yourself. How’s that working out for you so far?”

Discovering Yourself

The path of finding your best self isn’t a smooth or easy one. Identity can be a tricky thing; as much as we like to think we’re all pillars of individuality and self-awareness, but no man lives in a vaccuum. We are all the sum of the influences in our lives as much as we are self-determined masters of our own fates.

Trying to find out who you really are can be a matter of trial and error; you will find yourself making a lot of false starts and stumbling into many dead ends before you begin to zero in on who you truly are and can be. You’ll find that many of your ideas of who you are and can be are bound up in other people’s ideas of who you are or what you should want.

In fact, more often than not, you’re going to find out that you only think you want to be a certain way – and the reality isn’t nearly what you expect it to be. During the beginning of my transformation, I thought I wanted to be a Player. I was convinced that I wanted to live the playboy lifestyle; a ruler of the Austin club scene, rolling with my crew past the lines and velvet ropes with nods from the bouncers and promoters into a bar that looked like the inside of Michael Bay’s head and surveying the scene like the King of the Douchebags before picking out which hottie I wanted to take home with me that evening.

It took me a while before I was willing to admit that this was not, in fact, someone I wanted to be. I didn’t care much for most of the women I was meeting2, I didn’t like the bars and clubs I was hanging out in and I despised who I was becoming. I had assumed that I wanted this identity because it was so incredibly different from who I’d been; up until I tried living it, it seemed like an unattainable dream for me. I liked what I’d learned about myself and the confidence and social skills I’d developed, but I was becoming a more manipulative, coercive and ultimately toxic person. It took a little longer to find the balance that lead to who I am today – and I can say in total honesty that I’m happier and more fulfilled than I ever had been for most of my life.

You can find your best self, the person you knew you always wanted to be but never thought you could. It may take many changes. It may take fewer than you ever realized. But with time and determination and strength of will, you can make it happen.

And then when you’re being that self, your best, most authentic self you will understand…

Sometimes “just be yourself” can be the best advice you’ve ever received.

  1. All examples I’ve seen personally []
  2. or sleeping with []

  • LeeEsq

    Meh, I'm myself at dates and I keep getting the same result and its not a result that I like. Women that go on dates for me think that I'm really sweet, kind, witty, and good company and that I'll meet somebody someday but they don't think that we would be a good couple for some unidentified reason. Or that they see me as a friend rather than a romantic partner, etc.. The consensus is that I'll be a good partner for some other woman or that there is something about myself that prevents women from seeing me in a romantic or sexual manner. My fear is that I'm being held in reserve for after people are done sowing their wild oats and are ready to settle down, get married, and have kids. My desires, what I want from a relationship are going to be completely irrelevant or something that I'll get in the form of a theater.

    And yes, I realize that I'm get several thumbs down for this post.

    • I've heard this compliant before (almost entirely from guys) that they'll only get a girl when the girl has "sow her wild oats" (which is a nicer way of saying "has stopped sleeping with jerks), and wants to settle down. This sentiment always seems to be expressed with some undertones of bitterness.

      My question is…. why? Why the bitterness? Isn't someone wanting you for settling down a GOOD thing? It means someone wants to spend every day with you, sleep with you on a routine basis, and procreate with you. Do you really want to be the guy that might get some one-night-stands, but when there's a discussion of you being a father or someone being with you routinely, women collectively shutter?

      I think I kind of understand where you're coming from…. my mother always told me I'd make an awesome wife, lousy girlfriend, and it kind of offended me in the past. I think it's because I associated girlfriend=fun, wife=boring. So I'm a good wife, because I'm boring.

      As the years have passed, though, I've understood this sentiment a little bit more. I am just better at a relationship when I have the security of commitment, and a consistency of contact. When I first start dating someone, I am a well of crazy, a Old Reliable Gusher of insecurity and neurosis because I can't freaking STAND not knowing when they'll contact me, are we just dating, are we just friends, will he like this movie, OMG is he going to reject me…. on and on. If I can make it past the initial Insane stage, and can settle into a routine, I drop a lot of the insecurity and paranoia (in a good relationship with a compatible partner, anyway.)

      Maybe it's time for you to embrace the idea that you'd make a kick-ass husband, and to start really digging into your pysche and figuring out why the idea of a girl "sowing her wild oats" makes you so upset. Is it an issue of purity? Jealousy? Jealousy he got her "wild" days, or that you didn't get to experience your own "wild" days?

      It may also help to remember that in dating, a girl isn't lining up every single male in the world and then going down the list until she feels like settling. Yes, she might have sown her wild oats until she met you…. but maybe if she had met you 5 years ago, she wouldn't have sown her wild oats but would have settled down with you immediately. It was not that she was sowing, it was that she didn't find anybody worth settling with, and she just hadn't come across you yet. Unless a girl turned you down, slept around, and then came back and said "Okay marry me," you can't properly say she's just using you as the reliable guy to settle on.

      • LeeEsq

        IMO, its not the settling down is a bad thing. Eventually, I want to get married, raise a family, etc. A lot of men, including myself, aren't expressing the bitterness at that. What I, and probably other men, have is an apprehension that we are going to get a sort of fast-tracked through the parts of the relationship before marriage and family and end up with a rather condensed courtship. Thats the source of bitterness. I kind of want to enjoy being in a relationship without children or even the topic of children coming up for a few years.

        I know that nobody could force me to marry them but there is a sense of dread of potentially having to choose between no relationship or a relationship that is moving way too fast for my comfort.

        • eselle28

          What about choosing between a relationship that is moving way too fast for your comfort and deciding that while you enjoyed and learned from a relationship, you aren't on the same page about how fast things are moving and that things should end? That's not no relationship. If you want to date around before looking more seriously for a life partner, the second choice isn't a disaster.

          It seems like you're telling yourself the worst possible version of the future, which kind of makes sense to me since I sometimes do that too. Mine involves a cross between a brodude and a cowboy who I don't respect intellectually, makes me spend most of my time doing things I don't like, has several children who need a stepmom, and would like to add a couple more to the pack. The other version of it involves never having sex again and slowly losing contact with my friends as they move on with their lives. When I write them both out, they seem silly even to me. I'm guessing they seem completely laughable to others.

          My therapist and I are working on not telling that story that often. It's not very useful, and it definitely doesn't bring me closer to a place where neither of those futures is true. For me, it seems like the emotions it tends to inspire are self-pity and bitterness toward other people who haven't really done anything to hurt me. I'm generally happier when I try to find mechanisms to shut off the thought pattern when I start going down that path, either by reminding myself it isn't true or remembering that it's time to think about other things now.

          • LeeEsq

            My therapist called what I'm doing projecting and he said I should stop doing it because its not helpful, since it only causes anxiety attacks, and since I don't know what the future is like. He was right but its very hard not to do that even though my fears aren't likely to occur. Its just that I keep having the same experiences so its a bit hard for me to look at this positively. In the past two years, I've had countless rejections and my heart broken twice. I want to go on, to advance but thats not happening.

          • eselle28

            I'm not sure you can entirely logic your way out of the issue. I have had some success (this is something I'm still working on), with reminding myself that it isn't true and then having to immediately move on to something that will occupy my mind in a more positive way (there are a few specific things, depending on where I am when I start drifting into that pattern). I'm also trying to look for triggers. Unfortunately, it seems like the main one is something I can't avoid, but at least I can be prepared ahead of time.

            As for the other, I'm sure it's incredibly frustrating. I think all you can do is try to look at possible problems one thing at a time, and see if tweaking something or the other (whether that be trying to date a very different type of person for your next few dates, or focusing on your body language for a couple months, or trying to make your daily life more exciting and spontaneous for awhile) changes things.

      • Matty C

        Good point about the lining up thing, that really touches close to what the whole 'settling down' fear is based on for me at least:

        – Women date the wild bad boys that they have the hot passionate sexy-times and animal attraction with.
        – 'Settle down' means the passion-less marriage and settling for someone you aren't necessarily wildly lusting over.

        It really is taking 'settle' literally; as in "I REALLY want dude A but couldn't get him so I'll just have to 'settle' for dude B. it's the fear that she's only with you because she can't afford the better model.

        • Matty C

          as far as the jealousy thing, it's not so much about not getting your own wild days. It's that you're not someone who was worthy of her wild days, ie- you aren't sexually attractive.

          I think with the whole marriage thing, it's easy to get that impression. You hear married couples (generally those that have been married a long time) joke about how they never have sex. Or guys complain that they have to jump through a bazillion hoops to get boring sex from their wives. Hear enough of this and it's easy to form the impression that women generally don't find the men they've chosen to marry sexually attractive. I mean, if they did, why would they shoot themselves in the foot, right?

          • Well I have heard the jokes, but I think it's been proven over and over again that the jokes aren't true, and just lie in the realm of a skewed perspective. Married couples, even those who "don't have sex a lot" have sex WAY more than single people. The guys complaining how they can only get "boring" sex from their wives after a "gazillion" hoops are clearly forgetting the whole rigamoral they had to go through in the early days of courtship for even a shot at second base…. They've just become so used to regular sex, that they forget they went months without it.

            I am going to reiterate the whole "women do not line guys up and choose to have sex with the bad ones first." It's not like a woman is sleeping with the bad boy and coming back to you…. who are all of these women banging the bad boys and then coming back to beg for a ring?? I know it seems hard to believe, but women DON'T want to marry guys they don't find attractive. If she doesn't find you attractive now, chances are she's not going to want to marry you later.

            I can only speak for myself, but when it comes to marriage and long-term relationships, I seek balance. That means I want to be sexually attracted to my partner, BUT I am probably not going to choose the passionate-wild-sex-nights-guy. Why? Cause I got other stuff to do in life! Crazy, passionate, wild sex is fun, yeah…. but it's also exhausting and draining. In my experience, it's also usually fueled by drama. The more intense the sex, the more incompatible we probably are on an emotional level.

            And for all the guys rushing to their keyboards to declare that my statements somehow PROVES women love "bad boys," I should clarify that I've had that dramatic, crazy-sex with self-labeled "nice guys." Heck, I used to date your type almost exclusively! You guys can put out drama with the best of the bunch…. and while that made for a fun romp, it was destructive in the long-run.

            I have always hoped that I can find someone who is a good combination of these two extremes…. we are compatible in a long-term way, and I also find him sexually attractive (but NOT in a drama-filled-crazy-lustful-way.)

            Long story short…. if I'm "lusting" after you, if I'm smart, I will not date you. If I'm dating you, then I find you attractive enough to have regular sex with you. Now, which would you guys prefer…. one single night of crazy sex, or years and years worth of regular, good sex?

            Lastly…. you guys really, REALLY need to get over this whole jealousy of Bad Boys.

          • eselle28

            Those same jokes get told by people who met each other in their wild days too, including ones who are still stunning-looking.

            It's not that women (or men) marry people they find sexually unattractive. It's that it's hard to maintain lust in a long term relationship, once the early hormones wear off. It's also that married couples often end up going through experiences like childbirth, parenting small children, and various aging-related issues that make it challenging to have a hot sex life even if both people are up for it.

          • OldBrownSquirrel

            Once kids arrive, there's much less privacy. Parents often wait for their kids to fall asleep, at which point they're too tired to do much of anything. Sex becomes something that happens when the kids are with grandparents, at summer camp, etc.

          • thesurfmonkey

            Yep. Sex with your partner when you have small children is much harder to schedule due to privacy, plus also more stress and sleepiness and busier schedules. You can be all kinds of attracted to your partner, but a screaming kid is kind of a mood-killer.

        • guest

          @Matty C, you make an interesting point. Just wonder how that fits in when the woman you are dating has done all sort of things with guys in their past (don't assume what I am writing) but now with this serious, important and "special" relationship, either those things are off the table OR you get met with the "Ok if you want to" in the chore-like response.

          Some of the guys are jealous of it all. It kind of makes them feel used. You weren't good enough back them "but now that I am over it all" you good enough. Nobody likes being second choice.

          • Mel_

            I'm kind of confused. Are you guys really seeing women who turned down a guy (or you specifically) agree to go out with that guy later on after she's dated a bunch of other people? Because I don't generally see that happen. You have to remember that just because a woman dated other guys before she met the one she settles down with, doesn't mean she wouldn't have dated that guy because he wouldn't have been "good enough" if she'd met him earlier. It's not like we have control over how early in our lives we meet the guy who's right for us in the long-term! Lots of people do meet their ideal long-term partner early on (I met my husband when I was 22) and then stick with them. But sometimes it takes people a while and multiple relationships before they figure out what they really want and need in a partner, and/or before they are lucky enough to run into someone who fits that and is into them too.

            If you're dating a woman and she's done certain things with guys in her past that she isn't willing to do with you, I can understand how that would make you feel like she's treating you as inferior. If that happened, I think the important thing is to ask why. If to her those things seem like things you just don't do with a husband, then that's no better than a guy who sees a wife as someone he can't truly open up with (can't ruin her purity), and that's a perfectly good reason to decide this isn't be best partner for you. But maybe she doesn't want to do them because she wasn't really comfortable doing them in the first place, and only did with other guys because of insecurities or manipulation. Or maybe she thought she was going to enjoy them, but now that she's done them, she's seen she actually doesn't. That's where honest communication comes in–figuring out what each other's boundaries are and why, and whether you can enjoy the relationship all the same.

          • Matty C

            That's a good point.

          • guest

            How about this: The guy was so hot and it was just the heat of the moment type of thing but with you it's so special that we don't need to do that?

          • eselle28

            Oh, man. Things to never, ever say to your partner, Chapter 1.

          • Mel_

            And has any woman actually said this to you? Where are you getting the idea that this is likely to happen?

            Like I said, if a woman behaves like certain sexual acts that she enjoys are too "dirty" or some such to be done with a husband, that's a pretty problematic way of thinking, and there'd be nothing wrong with deciding you want a partner who's less judgmental about sexuality. But I haven't talked to any women who expressed that sort of thinking, so I doubt it's as common as you seem to be suggesting.

          • guest

            As to the heat of the moment thing. Yes, I have heard that. I dumped her a week later.

          • eselle28

            I think that should be classified as an unhealthy, abnormal behavior. Like Mel said, men who don't want to have hot, kinky sex with their wives but do want to with other women are deeply troubled.

            I think some of the guys above are over-estimating how common this is, though. Of sex acts that tend to be rejected by people in longer relationships, I think the most common category is "nope, not even going to think about that" and the second most common is "tried that once (possibly under some degree of pressure); not up for doing it again".

          • guest

            Are you coming from the concept that this is what the guy is thinking? Have you considered that this is based on information from the women they are dating even if I was blunt in my writing about it? I think you are not looking at it correctly or perhaps are looking ideally at it.

          • eselle28

            Have you met more than one woman who has done this?

            I know that I don't do this. I talk fairly candidly about sex with friends, and I only know one who seems to fit this profile. I hope you'd agree that it's not a healthy attitude toward sex, regardless of whether or not it's common.

          • guest

            The number is not the issue. I know why you are asking and I don't like trick questions.

          • Robert

            So you know that the fact that it has happened to you says nothing whatsoever about the likelihood of it happening except that it is not impossible? That's a relief. I thought I was going to have to give a lecture on probability in arguments.

          • Mel_

            The number is an issue, because no one denied that this attitude might exist, only that it is common. It happened to you once. Guess what–I dated a guy who was emotionally manipulative and abusive once. But I don't assume that it's common for guys to be emotionally manipulative and abusive because of that.

            Sometimes the people we date turn out to be messed up or have problematic ways of thinking/behaving. So, like you did, you move on to someone else.

          • LeeEsq

            Its probably not common but its a common nightmare among men. Its sort of the modern version of how men used to fret about their girlfriends or wives' sexual past in the days when virginity was more expected.

          • Becelec

            It makes no sense. If a woman has a healthy sex drive, and enjoys all kinds of sexy fun times, why on earth would she marry someone who she didn't want to continue having all those sexy fun times with? That shit is just crazy. If I was going to marry, I wouldn't be going through with it unless the sex was freaking awesome, and in steady supply. I mean, the whole deal with being married is that you're only supposed to be having sex with that one man for the rest of your life, so why on earth would you pick the man that you aren't sexually attracted to?

          • Mel_

            Okay, and when men express a fear that has no grounds in reality and, as Becelec points put, doesn't even make sense, what do you expect us to say? Of course we're going to tell you that you don't really need to be worried about that. Isn't that what you'd say to any woman who commented here saying she was worried no guy who'd marry her would want to have passionate sex with her because he'll only get married after he's sown all his wild oats and is ready to settle?

            Women who enjoy a variety of sexual behaviors are going to keep wanting to do that after they're married. Women who try out a variety of sexual behaviors when they're young and realize they don't enjoy them, didn't really enjoy them. If you want to have a variety of sex, you find one of the former women. And surely you wouldn't regret not having been with one of the latter women while she was experimenting, meaning she will look back on her time with you with discomfort, as something that was a mistake?

            (And yes, of course there are the rare women who enjoy a variety of sex but have some psychological hang-up where they don't want to do some of those things within a marriage, but there are guys who think that way too! It's not a woman thing. And since the women who think that way are relatively rare, if you run into one, you just move on and keep looking. No one's going to force you to marry her.)

            Also remember that there are many women who, like you, have not gotten to experiment much at all, because they haven't had much luck dating either, have never been with a truly supportive partner, etc. It's not as if all or even the majority of women have the opportunity to have fun healthy relationships as soon as they want.

          • eselle28

            I can understand that. I hope that the men here can also understand that just because a fear is common doesn't mean that it's reasonable or helpful.

            I'm going to flip things a bit from the male Madonna-whore syndrome we've been discussing and point out that it's somewhat common for women to fear that unless a man has more or at least a similar level of sexual experience, he will not be ready for any sort of commitment.* That is true of some men. It's not true of others, who are just looking for someone who they can connect with and who are willing to put in the work to make a relationship work. When women refuse to look at these men individually, they potentially miss out on good partners. It's not wise for men who are worried about their sexual partners' histories to fall into this trap, either. You have a long time to get to know someone before you marry her.

            *I'm aware you don't personally want to settle down with whoever your next partner is, but imagine how high the barrier would be if you had to cram in 15 years of dating and sex experience before anyone would consider dating you.

    • enail

      I don't think people do that, mark someone down on their list to look up later when they want to settle down. Unless someone's desperate to get married to anyone at all or to reproduce, doesn't matter who with, they're not going to want to settle down with someone who they aren't interested in dating – as Marty says, people generally settle down when they find someone they want to settle down with (or date that person until they are both ready to settle down/decide they don't actually want to be together).

      As you say, maybe something about the "you" you're showing the world is stopping people from seeing you romantically/sexually; maybe it's something else that's been suggested when you've brought this up in past threads. Perhaps the thing to take away from this article is the part about "you' being a malleable concept and needing to be willing to make some deeper changes in your attitude.

      But regardless, how could your desires be irrelevant in a relationship? Don't date anyone who would treat your desires as irrelevant! You deserve better than that!

    • eselle28

      I agree with the other women that it's not an issue of holding someone in reserve for later. I do not see many women dating a series of sexy bad boys and then make a conscious and grudging decision to settle down with reliable men when they hit a certain age and wish to have children. I have noticed a few women who have severe codependency issues overcome them and learn to find partners who they both find attractive and who treat them well, and lots of other women who meet mature partners later in life not because they've decided to settle, but because both they and the men in their dating pool have grown up a little bit over the years.

      When you're thinking about these things, I would suggest remembering that no one can force you to marry her and to settle down into a dull domestic life. You have the choice not to date women who seem to behave in this way, and you have the choice to end any relationship that's making you unhappy. Granted, you might not like some of your other choices, but focusing on something as impending doom isn't one of the better ways to process an imperfect situation. All it does is lead to anxiety or depression.

      You've talked a great deal about your difficulties getting second dates. Since many other possibilities have been eliminated, it seems like your body language issues might be undermining you. I think you should really try to find someone, either a professional or a friend, who can give you feedback and help you practice more natural and sexually appealing body language. The other possibility that remains is that perhaps there's something in your online dating profile that's not matching up well with the person you tend to be on a first date. I'm not implying anything you're doing intentionally, but perhaps there's something there that's unintentionally giving the wrong message, or there's an aspect of your personality that is genuine but that isn't showing up when you first meet people. That's something that, again, I think you'll need to have someone who knows you evaluate.

    • Mel_

      What enail said. If you want a wild, passionate relationship, but the way you present yourself doesn't give a wild, passionate impression to people, of course they're not going to see you as an option for that sort of relationship. Maybe you need to cultivate the wild and passionate side of yourself more so it's more obvious. Do some wild and unexpected things to loosen yourself up and have experiences to talk about. Practice behaving the way you imagine yourself behaving in your ideal relationship. E.g., maybe you think it'd be fun and romantic to play hooky from work with a woman you're crazy about, but do you ever play hooky for yourself? If you imagine traveling with a partner to certain types of places, do you go off on your own?

      Either you're coming off as too reserved and reliable to be an exciting romantic prospect, and so you need to adjust yourself so you are showing that side… Or maybe you'll discover that as much as you enjoy dreaming about sowing wild oats, when it comes to putting it into practice, you're actually kind of uncomfortable acting that way, and you need to adjust what you're looking for.

      And of course you also need to keep in mind the sort of women you're asking out. You're mentioned before that you're attracted to elegant women, but elegant is something that more often comes with reserve and discretion than wild oat sowing. If you want a wild passionate relationship, you're best off asking out women who already live that way at least some of the time.

    • x_Sanguine_8

      Well, be bold and ask about why you don't make the cut – ask them to be honest with you, and be prepared to think hard about the answer instead of just getting all defensive.

      DNL does point out in the article that sometimes "being yourself" is not always a good thing, and sometimes we need to make changes in order to be a more attractive person. Most of these changes have to do with being courteous and thoughtful of those around us (attitude, hygiene, character) rather than trying to be someone we really aren't (in terms of personality, ability or current situation).

      Your last statements sound like you don't trust your partner to be genuine with you. Maybe you need to work on trusting people first. I think your fears are largely unfounded – most people do not put that much careful planning into relationships to hold specific people "in reserve" for a later relationship (and those that do are often genuinely crazy).

      While I can't speak for all women, I don't find a purely physical relationship particularly sexy, much less romantic – some form of emotional intimacy is necessary. Perhaps it is the same for the women you've been seeing. Just something to think about.

    • OldBrownSquirrel

      My problem, as someone who's older and recently divorced with two kids, is that I'm the kind of guy that women might want to settle down with, certainly far too old to be the "fun" type, but I'm in no rush to settle down with anyone so soon after my divorce, and I think it would be particularly irresponsible of me to have more kids in any sort of hurry, which pretty much rules me out as a candidate for many single women in their thirties. I find myself looking for something like the low-key sorts of relationships so many people in their twenties seem inclined to pursue… which I'm afraid ends up making me look immature.

      • LeeEsq

        There are plenty older divorced people with kids in fun, romantic type relationships. Granted some of them get away with it more than others, in terms of not being mocked for their behavior, but its not unusual.

    • Marie

      Make an obvious comment or two that you're interested and not in a friends way or you will be put in that category…if I'm not sure how he feels I figure a guy wants to be just friends. An even bigger deal: don't let your own head mess things up (start coming up with reasons it won't work) and get in your way. I try to follow that myself…

    • OldBrownSquirrel

      I think there's a tendency for some (not all, mind you) young women to express their newly-fledged adulthood through rebellion against their parents by dating men their parents wouldn't approve of. Some guys seem to specialize in this for a while: the leather jacket (spikes optional), the gruff manner, perhaps some interesting piercings or tattoos, maybe dyed and/or interestingly styled hair… all of which are often a facade, and they're actually teddy bears. Once young women have gotten that out of their systems, they'll often assign more weight to those traits that their parents also value, in many cases ending up with men somewhat similar to their fathers. "Like Dad" often means "stable, responsible, respectful" at the same time that it means "unsexy," chiefly because, y'know, ewww.

      Otherwise, there's a tendency for younger adults broadly, independent of gender, to sow some wild oats, to see their twenties as a time for more casual dating with an eye for fun rather than finding a life partner. People, though perhaps especially career-minded women, are also often averse to settling down until after they've finished school (including graduate and/or professional school, if relevant) and made some headway on a career; this is especially true of women with higher aspirations who may see long-term relationships in youth as potential roadblocks to personal success. Career-minded men don't see relationships as necessarily being career impediments, in large part I suspect because guys can't get pregnant.

      • eselle28

        "Career-minded men don't see relationships as necessarily being career impediments, in large part I suspect because guys can't get pregnant."

        I'm not on board with this statement. In the fields where I see career-minded women putting off serious relationships, I see career-minded men doing the same. It's true they can't get pregnant. It's also true they have a longer fertility window than women do. Women who make these choices know that they will need to find partners by their late 30s if they wish to have biological children in the context of a marriage. Their single male counterparts sometimes shrug and talk about waiting until their 40s or even 50s and then marrying a younger woman (which may or may not be realistic, but there are definitely people who have that lifeplan).

        • enail

          I have met a number of women in academia who hesitate to have kids too early for fear it will impact their fledgling career – and have never met a man who is concerned with that. The people I've spoken to have all seen academia couples where, due to mat leave and childcare responsibilities, the woman has a much harder time launching her career than the man (it sounds like the men in those situations were not taking on as large a share of the childcare as the couple had intended prior to them having kids, so the women were disproportionally affected).

    • Delafina

      Well, you'll probably get a bunch of thumbs down because you post the same thing on practically *every* blog entry, as if you're saying it for the first time.

    • You are the kind of dude who puts "Esq" in his handle…

    • Adam

      Exactly. The same thing happened to me throughout my 20s. The real truth is that this advice that you should just be yourself is frankly utter and complete BS. You need to change yourself if what you are doing is not working.

      Women respond to certain traits in guys and you should adopt those traits and integrate them into your personality in order to be successful. For example women love a man that has options in terms of relationships, in other words he has slept with tons of girls and can have more. What does that mean if you are a 22 year old virgin college student? Fake it until you make it. Make women think you are successful and convince yourself you are successful and you will be.

  • Very timely topic! I am slowly becoming less hostile to the idea of adjusting my personality (lifestyle is another issue; I just cannot stand bars….), but I keep getting stuck at the what to change and how much to compromise.

    For example, I have a strong analytical and masculine communication style. (Fun experiment: I have a gender-neutral name, but over text communication like email a lot of people assume I am male. Their communication to me is very forward and direct. As soon as they speak to me on the phone, and hear I am female, their communication suddenly changes to be more question-based, with a softer tone; they also are less willing to accept my previously-accepted direct way of communicating.)

    I really like this about myself, but it seems to immediately stick me in the not-dating zone, because guys cease to see me as female. Just by communicating like a male, I come across as intimidating and aggressive. When I try to communicate in a more feminine way, I just sound like a ditz, and then guys think I'm too stupid to date!

    So do I change this aspect of myself that I really like, to something that is fake and awkward to me? Do I really have to play into traditional gender roles in order to date successfully?

    • Anonawoman

      This is my problem too. If I talk to a guy and make no effort to hide the fact that I am smart as fuck and know what I'm talking about, they'll get all hostile, defensive and intimidated. And this is in reference to general, basic conversation. But then if I try to appear as less intelligent they'll kind of smirk, and talk down to me.

      This is about acting within and outside of proscribed gender roles, and it requires change and critical thinking on the part of involved parties. And that's harder to deal with than "make sure your clothes fit you."

      • guest

        I am willing to be almost none of those guys are intimidated by your massive intellect. When someone has a trait they love shoving down people's throat (for whatever reason) it's so easy to write it off as the other person being intimidated. It makes you feel POWERFUL that you can do that and you don't have to examine your behaviour. You would think an very smart person would figure out that you are simply turning people off.

        • Well, "intimidating" wasn't my word for it, but what others have said. I posted my OKCupid profile here for review to figure out why I never got any messages, and the consensus was I came off as intimidating. Not "shove down your throat" aggressive, just run-of-the-mill "too of something" intimidating. (If you don't believe me, check out the forum. Go ahead, I'll wait.)

          • CmE

            I had a look but couldn't find it on the forum. Sorry if I'm being an idiot, would you mind linking to that post or your forum handle again?

      • Delafina

        My mother used to tell me I'd have to pretend to be dumber than I was if I wanted to not scare off guys. I have indeed scared off a lot of guys even while trying to not be intimidating. So she was right, sort of…until I got to my late 20s and got a job at a company where genius or near-genius IQ scores were the norm. And then no one cared anymore, and it was great.

        So: don't be an ass about your intelligence, but don't hide it, either. The guys that are intimidated by it aren't worth hanging out with anyway, and you will meet guys who aren't that insecure.

    • Mel_

      A couple thoughts:

      -If you really like something about yourself, I think it's much better to accept that if this is something kind of quirky, it's not going to appeal to as many people, so you have to hold out for the people who will appreciate it about you too. I have a pretty direct style of talking too (I think at least once just in the blog comments here, a guy's taken me for a fellow guy), and that definitely seemed to be intimidating/less appealing to some guys, but I still found a guy who liked me for it. I don't think you can be happy in a relationship if you're suppressing something about yourself that you actually feel is important and good.

      -It's rarely an either-or proposition. Maybe you could keep your communication style, but keep an eye on yourself to make sure you're not crossing the line from direct into abrasive or pushy. It could be that dialing it back just a little would make a significant difference in how people respond to you, without you having to act fake. E.g., I tend to be analytical about things and often look at things critically to figure out how they work and don't work for me. But I've learned that if someone brings up a TV show, movie, book, etc. that they like, I have to be a little tentative, say a couple more vague things to see how they respond, to get a sense of whether they just want to share enthusiasm or have a more in depth conversation. And if they seem to just want to share enthusiasm, I limit or completely avoid any less-than-positive remarks I might make about that thing.

      (And then I tend to seek out conversations with people I know are more open to analytical dissection, because that'll be more enjoyable for me. But it leaves a more positive impression to the person I was talking to and anyone else around, which from what I've gathered contributes to how people see me overall.)

      • That's a good idea about making vague statements at first to gauge interest. Looking at my history, I can comfortable say I rarely "gauge" things, but just sort of jump in cause I'm so excited to talk about stuff. I get to talk about that sort of stuff so rarely (parallels between Mormonism and Scientology and what it says about the American culture, for example) that if someone gives me even a little opening, I rush right in.

        Maybe it's about finding more people who would be open to analytic dissection so I don't overwhelm the few I find. But how do you uncover such groups? Where did you meet them, Mel?

        The direct/abrasive/pushy thing is tough. It seems something that would be just plain-old direct in a male, is pushy/abrasive in a female. Anon, I certainly relate to your position, feeling like if I were a guy, no one would blink twice at my intelligence/manner of communication, but because I'm female, I have to dial it back even further…. but risk being talked down to. I can't quite figure out how to strike that balance, especially when I find myself actually getting angry at people who think I'm abrasive (not because I actually am abrasive, but because I am female and communicating in a masculine, direct way.)

        Anybody have ideas on how to strike a balance on that, or get over the anger that comes with compromising myself just because of what gender I present as?

        • Mel_

          I really think it's about finding the right people. I've had the most success in the writing community (you don't get very far as a writer if you don't have some interest in analyzing stories in all forms, and being curious about the world). Also geeky circles, to some extent–e.g., in my kung fu class, a bunch of us regularly discuss and critique geeky movies and books, but that just happened by chance (although, it was the third martial arts school I'd checked out, and I immediately could tell the vibe was a much better fit for my personality than the other too, so I was able to purposefully seek out the right sort of atmosphere to some extent) and not everyone's into that sort of talk, so I have to change my approach a little with a few people. I've had good luck running into people who are into that sort of conversation at conventions, especially ones with a focus on books (e.g., I do better at World Fantasy Con than something like Polaris that's more about TV, movie, and comic fandoms).

          You know, one thing I think might help is if you find like-minded women to chat with first (in the sort of settings mentioned above), and then when you start really hanging out with some of them, you'll meet the men in their social circles… who presumably wouldn't be friends with the woman in question if they weren't okay with women talking that way. Also looking for geeky social groups that tend to have a higher concentration of women, so guys who are in that scene are less likely to be people intimidated by women. I mean, that is more of a long game if your ultimate goal is meeting more men, but I think it's worthwhile, especially if approaching men directly in more general contexts is putting you face to face with a lot of a-holes.

          • I'd love some more female friends-I'm not even interested in the Menz right now, except as "receptacles of friendship." It's funny you should mention your kung fu class…. I was heavily into a martial arts in college, and while I did find a lot of fellow intellectual geeks, they also kind of drove me bonkers. I once spent TWO HOURS debating with a group of them about flying. They swore, up and down, they could fly…. they just hadn't figured out how yet! They just needed to "transcend their limitations." It's like their intellectualism had wrapped right around back into idiocy. Do you find that as well, or was mine a unique experience?

            We mentioned last week that a good place to find lots of geeky women are geeky, crafty places, and I certainly have uncovered some good friends through my sewing…. but what other circles have female geeks besides the Crafts?

          • Mel_

            LOL, no, thankfully the people in my kung fu class are pretty down to earth. We do joke around about how our sifu needs to get on with the teaching us how to fly already… but I'm quite sure all of us know it is just a joke. It's probably just a matter of finding the right class. Mine is mainly made up older twenty-somethings through people in their forties, who are all pretty self-directed (our sifu is very easy going, going by the philosophy that the people who really want to get good at it will work at it without needing a teacher barking at them constantly, so anyone who isn't self-directed tends to drop out early on), and are also easy going/able to see humor in things. It's a very fun and friendly atmosphere even though we all still respect the art and care about learning and understanding it.

            Other good places for finding geeky women… In my experience, anime and manga fan groups tend to skew toward having not a majority of women, but a larger female presence than more general science fiction and fantasy groups, or N. American comics. Certain literary circles: children's and young adult fiction, for example, is female dominated. And in academic circles, I think you still tend to find more women when the topics being discussed involve psychology and sociology, how actual people were involved on a deeper level, rather than being more about nonhuman factors. (I'm probably not explaining that well, but an example considering your interest in history: I'd expect a talk about, say, the impact of religion on people's views on authority figures in X society to have more women in attendance than a talk about how weather patterns affected types of agriculture or some such.)

            I didn't mention before, but I think also that starting up groups on your own can be a great way of meeting like-minded people, because you set the content, tone, and structure of the group and then people who that sort of thing appeals to will come to you. A history book club where you all read the same historical account each month and then discuss. Or maybe a history film club where you watch historical films and then discuss how accurate it was and the impact of how they chose to portray certain events and so on. Or, getting away from specifically history, you could make a non-academic academics club for people who are academically minded but didn't happen to continue on in school. I think you can find people with just about any set of qualities, especially living in a large urban area, because if you want other people like that, you're probably not the only one. But it takes someone with the initiative to set up, promote, and organize that group to get it started.

        • enail

          Hmmm, this is tricky…I'm fairly petite and don't have the loudest voice, which means I often get the 'talked down-to" thing to start off with a certain type of guy, but I absolutely won't dial back my intelligence and am willing to hold my own when a conversation gets going (and will get as assertive as need be to be listened to with respect, which is sometimes pretty darn forceful).

          This rarely seems to create bad feelings (in general, I can't speak to dating), at least not among guys who aren't pretty horribly sexist. So maybe starting out a little softer (not hiding intelligence, though! Who wants to date someone you have to hide your intelligence for?) but being prepared to ramp things up as necessary would help? This might go along with the gauging before diving in, too – in general, social interactions go more smoothly if you start out a little more gently, feeling things out and looking for the other person's reaction. I'd guess this is especially true for more direct women?

        • Tea

          I'd really like to second Mel's suggestion of "gauging" before jumping into a conversation. Think of it as, oh, a guy doing a quick look-over of a girl before trying to get her number. Is she wearing an engagement ring? Sitting awfully close to another guy? Looking alert and scanning the crowd or deeply absorbed in a book? A guy who rushes right up to a girl without getting a sense of her runs a good chance of coming across as a nuisance at best or an all out creep at worst ("Did you not just see me kiss my fiancée and fiddle with my ring before you asked me out?")

          Same with having a conversation– before leaping into a conversation you're totally excited for (a guy who wants to talk to a chick who looks exactly his type), check to make sure other people want to have this conversation too (she looks open to chatting and isn't busy doing her own thing.) It's both a matter of courtesy– and by filtering out people who don't want to have as in-depth a talk as you do, you'll have higher quality conversations too.

          • Yeah, I think I just need to find more analytically-driven people to talk to. The more of an outlet I can find, the less desperate-giddy I will get when talking to someone new ("Maybe THIS person will want to discuss Tudor history!")

            Still trying to work out how to deal with the "I am abrasive just because I'm a woman" angle, though.

        • HLM

          I’m really hesitant to jump in here because, to me, you are doing so many things to screw yourself over and putting yourself in little boxes that you don’t need to be in that I am loath to try and help you unpack all of this. So, with that said:

          First, consider a scenario where you are shipwrecked on a deserted island and had to fend for yourself and make a go of it. You need to eat but you’ve identified yourself as someone who only eats tofu, fruit, and whole grains. You see some fruit hanging in high trees but you’re not a “tree-climber”. You’re a lady after all. You imagine it might be helpful to journal what has happened to you and what you’re going through as an aid to your own survival and to let others know your story (if someone finally discovers after you die), but you don’t “do emotions”. It’s not a part of who you are.

          Do you see how each of these bits of identity limits you and your ability to survive/flourish? I think it’s better to look at ourselves principally as human beings that adapt well/not well to life/reality and can fulfill who we really are by developing our capacities to bring resonant thing(s) to the world. Having self-awareness about current preferences and capabilities is fine but fixing your identity to them is very limiting.

          Also, consider Carol Dweck’s research on self-theories that contrast fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. The takeaway here is that you want to develop a growth mindset.

          Human beings are able to express themselves in numerous ways and there’s real value in being able develop the capacity to express yourself in each of those various ways. Apparently you can communicate in a particular way – good for you. But it’s extremely limiting to attach your identity to one way of communicating and then feel like your being asked to compromise who you are. I think it’s the exact opposite. You’re compromising who you really are and what you can really become by fixing your identity to particular capacities that you have developed to some degree. It’s like saying you’re a crawler and how you crawl is something you like about yourself and then asking do I have to change myself so other people will interact with me. “If I was a baby no one would complain – it’s so unfair”. It’s time to learn to walk and run and swim and jump so that you can flourish in your own life.

          I also don’t think you are really getting what you truly want in life, what really matters to you, and in that way you are already compromising who you are. Being able to truly bring yourself fully and resonantly into the world takes a lot of work and stretching of the raw material.

          I think being able to confront yourself about who you really are and what your part in any situation is, is an essential life skill and something DNL alludes to in his article. And frankly, in your posts I’m not seeing it. So for example, have you really confronted yourself about what your part might be in others perceiving you as abrasive? It doesn’t have to be true for others to respond to you as if it was and it’s to your benefit to understand why. I don’t agree that this is about sexism or double standards or the like – I think it’s a non sequitur that allows you be a champion of either women or not compromising your true self instead of addressing the real issue. There’s more here to say but I’ll leave it for next time.

      • Bwmn

        I think that the whole "not either or" is a really important way to think about. I too can come across very direct/more aggressively in how I generally speak – but what defines "aggressive" isn't just one thing. So instead of going straight to passive ditzyland – I basically decided to try and remove or dial down my sarcasm. The combination of being aggressive while also using sarcastic humor, I could understand how that could be interpreted instead of "being direct" but rather "just being mean". No sarcasm is something I really try to hold off on until people know me more, and it's also helped me find other ways to add humor to conversations.

        This in no way applies to all women who are generalized as speaking very directly – but I think what was so good about the article is acknowledging that are traits that can be tinkered with, without going in the complete opposite direction. For me, reducing sarcasm definitely helped soften my overall communication style without becoming too passive. It also worked in making me appear more optimistic/approachable/etc.

        It also helps that I don't really describe myself as a "sarcastic person" – but rather a style of humor I adopted when I was younger and feel comfortable using. And while changing it wasn't automatic and at times made me feel like I couldn't be funny – I'm glad I did it.

        • CmE

          Too much sarcasm is very draining, no matter what gender you are. It's not a very attractive quality in a person. I can handle it for a few hours but after that, eh, I just need to run away.

      • magicman

        Mel, you do come across as very analytical. I do think of myself as analytical as well. To me, this is an excellent trait. You and enail so far are able to answer my questions in an effective manner because you two know how to break things down in a algorithmic, concrete, and specific manner. I think I am going to come to this blog and forum more because there is a treasure trove of information that may help me to navigate the social world. The problem with some doctors and psychologists is that they are more theory based and not pragmatic and practical.

    • magicman

      Therein lies the problem with me as an Asperger male. In order for me to function in society and in employment do I have to give up who I am and sell my soul?

      • Mel_

        I've been working with people on the autism spectrum (including Aspergers) for several years. I don't know exactly what it means for you, but I have seen that even people who need a lot of structure and to approach things in practical, straight-forward ways can find places where they thrive in society. There are a lot of jobs where being detail-oriented, precise, and analytical is a great asset, and where sociability isn't that important (particularly behind the scenes type jobs where you're working with some sort of data–computer, scientific, financial, etc.). And when it comes to socializing, the key things seem to be making sure you have basic etiquette down (listening to other people and letting them finish rather than interrupting, making some eye contact, giving people a reasonable amount of personal space) and being willing to acknowledge your quirks in an easy going way (e.g., if you realize you've gone off on a tangent, smile and say something like, "Sorry, I'm a little obsessive about that topic!").

        Some people are probably going to think you're weird, because some people are going to think anyone who behaves at all atypically are weird. I wouldn't let that get to you. If you've got the basics down and an interest in getting to know other people, I think you should be able to find others who'll be interested in talking with you and appreciate you for who you are without you having to become a totally different person.

  • Anonawoman

    This is an excellent post, but I have a question for you, Doc: what about us academic nerds? I'm in graduate school, on track to go straight on to doctoral work after finishing my Master's and I find that….I have a hard time with small talk. This might also stem from my deeply introverted personality. I do my best to make myself go out and go to singles events, but I never know how to act. I'm the kind of person who would rather talk about post-colonial theory than the music scene in my city or whatever, and it's really hard to just establish a casual baseline with people.

    Like, men approach me (I fit conventional beauty standards and present as very feminine) (you see I'm doing it now; I'm talking about gender performance in the comments of a blogger who is often attacked for saying that male privilege is a thing that exists), but I feel like I always kill the conversation just by saying "I'm a graduate student in blah field." (This usually results in either silence, them making snotty remarks about what I study, or a ten minute lecture on what they do for a living and….none of that leads to a discussion of things that we are mutually interested in).

    So, do you have any advice for us nerds in academia who struggle when we attempt to datingishly interact with people outside of it? Because we're still nerds, if a slightly different animal than the Epic Fantasy/Video Game/Comic Book/Sci Fi variety (though we often overlap).

    • Mel_

      I'd recommend focusing on more academically slanted social settings. I've never had much luck making friends with men or women in generic social settings. If your field is history, for example, see if there are talks or other events at nearby museums? Go to conferences related to your field? Documentary screenings on topics of interest? Etc.

      Another thought: consider men who are a little older than your usual age range? A guy who's the same age as you, who didn't pursue grad school and is only getting started in the working world, is more likely to feel insecure about you being more educated than a guy who has an established career (regardless of education) or simply has had the time to become more confident in himself as an adult.

      Also, online dating. If you mention your grad studies right in your profile, you automatically filter out any guy who has a problem with that (or most, at least).

      Any guy who gets intimidated simply by you mentioning your level of education is probably not a guy you could have a healthy relationship with anyway. The problem isn't you, it's them.

      • Anonawoman

        Oh hey you guessed my field! I'm quite bad at making friends/forming relationships in generic social settings as well; I think it says a lot about me that the most socially accepted I've ever felt has been in graduate school. I do actually try to do all of those things, but that depends on them happening when I don't have 87 books to read. I always joke that I'd have no problem at all if museums had bars in their lobbies.

        This is really excellent advice. Thank you 🙂 Maybe I should give online dating another shot (I tried it once, but then I got like, 37 messages at once and had an introvert anxiety attack and shut down my profile whoops)

        • Hey I'm in History too! Are you in a larger city at all? My local science museum has "mixers" about once a month-some people go there just to party, but a lot of my museum-volunteer and academically-inclined friends go (I'm going to one in two weeks, so excited!) You could try following the local museum on Facebook or Twitter and see if they have something like that.

          • Anonawoman

            Whatup fellow historian! I am, and the city has a huge amount of museums. These museums are rather….stiff and do have cultural events, but sadly nothing in the way of mixers. Frankly, that sort of thing is my dream. I do try to go to these events as much as I can, but you know how hard it can be to go out and do what you want to do with seminars, teaching, and thesis writing.

          • eselle28

            If you have a non-academic interest that still tends to attract smart, thoughtful people, perhaps that could be both a starting point for a discussion and a place to meet other people who might be interested in learning about your field?

            I'd find a person who wanted to talk about post-colonial theory to be pretty interesting…but our first conversation about it would probably need to consist of me asking some questions to fill in what I suspect are large knowledge gaps and then perhaps asking for a book recommendation. I like having academic conversations, but if the subject is something I'm only moderately familiar with and the person I'm talking to is an expert, sometimes I'd rather think things over than blurt something out and look ignorant.

            If someone makes a snotty remark, though, I think that's a good point to excuse yourself from the conversation.

        • kungfutreachery

          Another historian here whose entire university was dedicated to post colonial stuff, guess its just going to be pot luck whether you find someone who is interested in your field. I've yet to find anyone giving a remote toss about Japanese colonial narcotic policy, or the nuances of the ideology of the Taiping rebellion, so much to my dismay I normally have to just discard any pretence of bringing that up and just pretend to be enthralled by whatever they're saying.

    • November

      It sounds to me like you're launching into conversation topics that the men (or whomever) you're talking to don't know enough about to really go back and forth about. Obviously, it's your prerogative to talk about whatever you want with casual acquaintances, but you might find fewer awkward silences if you met them more in the middle, with a topic they know more about.

      • Anonawoman

        Actually I don't. If they ask me what I do and why I like it I will answer them with complexity, but I tend to start off by asking them about themselves in an attempt to find interests in common. Trust me, I don't go up to guys I don't know and start talking about Spivak and Guha 🙂

        • vessna

          Do you have a 15 second elevator talk? When you finish your Ph.D. you will need this for when you are on the market. It's basically a few sentences that explains your work without jargon or complexity. Try picking the broadly interesting part of your work and amp that up a bit. I'm a professor and my actual research is complex but I never discuss this unless I'm with other academics. When other people ask about it I try to be as user-friendly as possible and meet people where they are. If someone seems like they are REALLY interested, I'll go into the complex theory stuff but only if they invite it.

          • Anonawoman

            I've actually been trying to develop a concise, accessible way to sum up my research, and now I have a term for it" the "15 second elevator talk." Thanks for that.

          • guest

            It's call the Pitch. Under Siege was pitched as "Die Hard on a Boat". It's a great way to make a concise explanation.

        • guest

          It's a good thing that you stoop down to talk to the little brains. I hope they can appreciate it.

    • guest

      Consider joining Mensa. They are a group devoted to talking about esoterica and telling everyone about their genius intellect.

      • x_Sanguine_8

        Oh, hush, guest – quit being so bitter. It is a genuine difficulty for very bright people to sometimes communicate with people who are not as bright as they are simply because the less intelligent person just can't keep up to speed; it's often frustrating for both parties. It's not arrogance if you genuinely outclass the person in terms of intellect any more than outclassing people in other talents and skills – it becomes arrogance when you think that being of superior intellect somehow entitles you to things because you are the superior person.

        oh, and with respect to Mensa: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPMKqyaXtHI&fe

    • magicman

      I know what you mean Anonawoman. I have difficulty with small talk as well. I would rather talk about algorithms like the min-max algorithm, chaos theory, the universe, time, philosophy, etc. If I am not careful in the social world I can get into talk such as this and people do not know what I am talking about. I have to really curtail myself.

      I was able to create an Artificial Intelligence player for a Tic Tac Toe game. I could not even beat my own game that I created. Each move I make in a game leads to different moves. When one starts the X player has 9 different moves he or she can make. The O player has 8 different possible moves and so on. This creates an n-ary tree. Tic-Tac-Toe has three states which are win, lose or cat. Only one player can win and only one player can lose. Both can cat.

      • magicman

        When we reach the leaf nodes we reach the final state of the game which has the conditions of win, lose or cat. The leaf nodes are assigned numbers and are propagated up based upon this algorithm. It is propagated by alternatively choosing the max number and when it goes up then the min. X tries to choose the best position for itself by choosing 1 in the layer below and O tries to counter choosing -1. These are game states. By the way, x win is assigned 1, cat is assigned 0 and o win is assigned -1.

    • HLM

      Okay so you’re having trouble connecting with others you don’t know, especially in more casual and date-y settings. How well are you really connected to the world around you and to all of your humanity? Are you dismissing or rejecting parts of yourself that could connect to the larger public and to life. Do you not have to eat, take care of your health and hygiene, work with and maintain objects in the world and interact with others? Those are all points of connection with another human being (if you give them some weight).

      How do you see your studies relate to you life today? Whatever those are could also be ways to make your studies accessible to others. So connect your work more to your own life and the world around you and then share that with others. You’re now making small talk that could turn into other things.

      Now just generally, work on becoming a social giver while taking care of yourself at the same time. These can be social graces, positive emotions, encouragement, humor, stories, (interesting) information, listening, etc. Share/give something of yourself to the interaction – be real. Make “strong offers” as they say in improv. Owning and bringing yourself fully to a situation is a huge offer/gift to an interaction. Bring up things that matter to you, that you want, etc. (just be careful to own and share them rather than putting them on others to handle).

  • CmE

    We are not loved for who we are at any given moment, but for the best version of ourselves.

    Or so I am coming to think, anyway.

    • That strikes me as depressing, because I am very rarely the best version of myself, since I am human and thus fallible. Could it be more we start out as the best version of ourselves, to find someone who will love us for the person we are at any given moment?

    • eselle28

      I suspect that other people want to meet something that, if not the best version of ourselves, is a pretty good version of ourselves. I don't think that's unreasonable, since people have no way of knowing what the bottom part of the iceberg looks like. Someone who seems fun and interesting might be hiding serious flaws, or there might just be a whole bunch more good stuff. In the same way, sometimes you try to get to know someone who seems misunderstood, only to find out that beneath the gruff exterior lies someone who's even worse than you might have thought.

      Love seems different, though, or at least when I've loved men I've loved most of them, including a lot of things that might be quirks and flaws. It's not unconditional love. There were always still some traits that drove me insane and there was definitely behavior that was not acceptable. But it's not as if I only loved the most presentable, easy-to-meet version either.

    • Tea

      Personally, I think that people who strive to be the best (or better) versions of themselves are the ones who get the most love.

      It's human nature to fall back on excuses for why you behaved like an asshole, or didn't put forth the effort, or returned to old habits. But people who, even in making mistakes, say, "No, but now I'm going to do my best, I'm going to try harder, and if I'm going to fail, by god I'm going to FAIL BETTER," are the ones who stand out. If people were gemstones, they'd be the polished, roughcut stones, waiting to be faceted into glittering brilliance. Whereas people who make no effort to try to better themselves might very well be diamonds on the inside, but all anyone is going to see is another lump of coal.

      • CmE

        Yes, this is a nicely expanded version of what I was getting at. I like this analysis very much.

      • Eh, I think that comes down to personal preference again. I want to be, and be around, people who are generally good people and striving to improve. However, being around people who are ALWAYS trying their best, who "fail better!", who never allow themselves "excuses"….. God, those people are exhausting (to me.) It's just like…. sometimes I just want to chill out and be average. Occasionally it's okay to just be an average human being who is neither failing or succeeding at "being the best," but is just sitting in their living room watching reruns of Law and Order.

        I want to be, and be with, a person who thinks it's okay once in a while to skip the gym cause they want to watch adorable puppy videos. To each their own.

        • CmE

          I'm not saying one has to be on the self-improvement treadmill all the time. We all have slow days, and there are times when it's plain impossible. That's OK. But overall there should be a good constant visible effort, and the trend should be positive.

          The effort is very love-inducing – or that has been my experience, at least.

          • OldBrownSquirrel

            "I'm not saying one has to be on the self-improvement treadmill all the time."

            I'm actually reading this from a treadmill desk. Granted, the treadmill isn't currently on.

          • Like I said, probably personal preference. People making constant effort to "be better" is just exhausting to me. I'm a big fan of NerdFitness, but just HEARING about the guy's life wipes me out…. he's constantly looking for new ways to improve, new ways to travel, new things to grow his company, new ways to improve his diet/exercises. It's great and all, and the world needs motivated, ambitious people like him-but I wouldn't enjoy dating him.

            Just like there are times we should honestly look at ourselves and strive to do better, I think it's good to have times when we look in the mirror and are just happy with what we see. If you're always striving to improve and be better, it means you're never satisfied with what you are…. which is good if you're a jerk who needs to improve, but if you're an all around decent, happy person with a good life, I think it's a-okay to rest on your laurels for a while and just be cool with yourself.

            For me, the ability to look in the mirror and say," Yeah I could improve some things, but I'm pretty cool" is more attractive than a person putting in constant effort to "be better."

          • Tea

            Personally, I don't feel that trying to do "better" necessarily implies a dissatisfaction with who you are or massive guilt trips when you fail or making big sweeping changes or chasing after big dreams (though it can.) Bettering yourself can be scheduling a trip to Thailand for a completely new experience, deciding to try reading a new genre of books, or even just replaying a previous conversation back in your head and thinking, "Ouch, that was kind of a douche thing to say. Let me not repeat that." And voila, you're "better" than you were two seconds ago.

            It's as much self-awareness and taking opportunities (large and small) as they come as it is getting out there and doing, and doesn't necessarily mean endless activity and working with a goal of ~becoming a better person~ 24/7

          • Hey, not arguing that you're into what you're into. To you, it is a good trait. Just to me, it is a neutral trait-good in some situations, bad in others. Sometimes I don't WANT to do something new. For example, I've been to London and Japan. And yet where am I scheduling my next trips to? London and Japan. Yes, it would be "better" for me to try something new. But I love London and Japan!

            I'm sure at some point I'll swing back into the "better myself" category, trying new things and taking opportunities and what have you…. but for right now, I'm really enjoying just liking the things I like and enjoying the comfort of the familiar. The ability to just hang out and be myself, and not putting so much pressure on myself to "be better" is really refreshing.

            Again, doesn't mean you're wrong to like those things. I've just spent most of my life criticizing myself, punishing myself for NOT being better… so at this stage of my development, I'm looking for something different.

  • LeeEsq

    What I really hate is when people say platitudes like "some day your day will come" or "you'll find somebody eventually" with a look thats trying to be comforting but comes across as smug.

    • guest

      Don't worry, Some day somebody will come.

    • thesurfmonkey

      I think there are a couple ways to interpret those platitudes. One is that they are expressing a hope or a wish for you. Another is that they're saying they don't have any idea how to help you if help is interpreted as making things happen right away, but that given enough time the odds are in your favor. Of course, another is that they are tired of listening to you talk about relationship woes and want to change the subject.

      • eselle28

        That sounds about right. I find the platitude itself to be fairly annoying because it's false, but I think it's something people say when they don't have any helpful advice and want to move the conversation to another subject.

  • OldBrownSquirrel

    There are changes I'd consider making to myself, specifically with regards to my appearance, and there are some that seem like a bit too far.

    Clothes: In theory, I'm open to change. On the other hand, I utterly despise men's dress clothing. It's expensive to purchase, expensive to maintain, fragile, uncomfortable, and broadly impractical. The expense of purchase, dry cleaning, etc. makes it a form of conspicuous consumption. Moreover, I personally associate it with people who have sufficiently severe credibility problems that they need to purchase credibility from a store.

    Hair: The best thing that can be said about hair is that haircuts don't take too long, especially in contrast to things like weight loss, though I confess that I'm badly in need of a haircut. My biggest hair-related problem is that I don't have as much material to work with on top as I once did, and it's losing its color. Now, I could attack the problem with Rogaine and dye, but I'm sufficiently resigned to my fate at this point that I'm not inclined to bother. Now, I know I could take the brave way out and shave it off, but then I'm left with a combination of cold and sunburn. The other hair-related problem is facial hair and body hair. Now, it's my understanding that some women (how many? I honestly have no idea) prefer men who have pretty much no hair below roughly the level of the nostrils, perhaps partly because that's what one sees guys in their late teens, who seem to be the ideals of beauty that everyone else is obliged to emulate increasingly poorly as they age. Now, I can shave and/or wax everything from the nostrils down, and I might *look* a bit better, but I'm not sure the inevitable stubble is going to be any more attractive once someone actually touches me. The obvious alternative is electrolysis, but it's painful, expensive, and permanent, and given that I'm not sure what fraction of women are that averse to men with body hair, I'm not sure there's a point.

    Now, I expect I'd have better luck dating if I were significantly taller, but I don't really see distraction osteogenesis as practical for that purpose.

    I could go for LASIK, but I'm concerned about possible risks and side effects, and I'd rather not mess with my vision in any lasting way. I suppose I could trade out eyeglasses for contacts.

    I could lose some weight — or at least swap some fat for muscle — and I see that as worth doing, in my copious free time.

    How important is physical appearance, really? Are women averse to dating short, bearded, balding, bespectacled men? I realize the picture I'm painting is singularly unattractive, about as far from the archetype of male desirability as possible, but one hears that women aren't as superficial as men. Is it the combination that's a problem, and I need to change a few of these traits to have a decent chance?

    What I'm most inclined to do to become the person I want to be is in the form of less superficial self-improvement: reading, practicing an instrument, trying to make myself into a person someone might like to spend time with, even if I'm not necessarily so much to look at; as I get older, trying to look like I'm less than half my age is increasingly Sisyphean.

    • eselle28

      Physical appearance isn't everything. It is something. There's a lot of ground between those two points. Some of it's going to depend on how much value you place on your partner's looks, and some of it is gong to depend on any individual woman's taste.

      Electrolysis? LASIK? That's not a little effort. That's expensive and painful and overboard. There are lots of things you can do that are far short of that. You mentioned fitness already. You can dress better without wearing formal clothing. There are lots of casual looks that are still attractive and make a positive statement. Likewise, you can make sure that your hair is cut in a way that works with your amount of hair loss and that your glasses are flattering and up to date. I don't think the goal should be to look half your age (almost no one who thinks this actually does) but to look like a reasonably fit, well-groomed person of your own age.

      The other things you list are also important. Being interesting and enjoyable to be around is crucial as well, and those are good areas to invest your time into.

      • Dr_NerdLove

        Electrolysis is expensive and painful as hell from what I understand. Easier to get a body hair trimmer and do some manscaping on the areas that you can reach, then see an esthetician about waxing or sugaring for other parts. Assuming, that is, that this is a route you want to explore .As for losing your hair: you can take propecia and Rogaine to fight it or you could just say “Fuck it” and buzz it all down or go all the way and shave your head. Lots of women LOVE bald guys. It's a very masculine look, as opposed to going with the landing strips, the tonsure or the comb-over.

        • OldBrownSquirrel

          I've heard that some suggestion that a bit of pruning down there is appreciated in certain contexts, and I can get behind that. Anything beyond trimming in my case, though, reminds me of a comment Kevin Smith once made about Chewbacca getting a Brazilian; without a full-body treatment, it would look ridiculous.

          My hair is definitely thinning, but enough of it is still there, even in the thin parts, that I see shaving it all as something of an over-reaction. It might be worth my asking some of my friends for their opinions on the matter, though.

          The great irony: I have not enough hair where I want it, and too much where I don't want it.

        • Matty C

          DNL – any men's style books you'd recommend? Anything that would impart a 'sense of fashion' to an engineering-minded guy like myself?

          Something that's relatable to an everyday casual look and not just describing, say, ultra-formal clothing from the 1920s?

          • I'm not DNL, but have a look at Color For Men by Carole Jackson. It's a moldy oldie, so you don't want to read it for the style advice, but the color advice is timeless, and knowing your colors is a good place to start regardless of your style.

          • Matty C

            Cool thanks, I'll check that out.

          • Dr_NerdLove

            I have some recommendations in the Dr. NerdLove Bookstore that may help you out. I'd also recommend reading fashion magazines and blogs to get some ideas for outfits.But in general, you want to start with the basics: clothes that actually *fit*. You'd be amazed how many people are wearing clothes that are too tight or too big and don't realize how much it affects their looks.

          • Matty C

            Cheers, I'll take a look.

            One thing I've found with fashion mags (stuff like GQ) is that I find them…. too contrived and unrelatable to be any use for everyday advice. I don't think I've ever seen a pic with a model who doesn't look like he spends five days a week at the gym to maintain that look (unless there was a "Fashion for guys with more than 10% bodyfat" issue that I missed lol). They certainly don't look like most of the people I'd see in a typical day.

            Or maybe it is the clothes?

            Not that I think I'm ugly, just average. To be honest I'd absolutely love to do one of those makeover things like they do on Beauty and the Geek, just to see what I'm capable of looking like in the hands of people that have a knack for that sort of thing 🙂

      • OldBrownSquirrel

        Let me tell you, in terms of being expensive and painful and overboard, electrolysis and LASIK are *nothing* to distraction osteogenesis. I encourage you to look it up. That said, I completely agree with you. I've already made some changes to my wardrobe, and I got new glasses last summer. As I said, I need a haircut, but that happens pretty often and is quick and easy enough to fix.

        • FormerlyShyGuy

          I hated my glass and I don't like my back hair, so I got Lasik and I recommend it if you don't like your glasses/find a doctor you trust. I am also going to try laser hair remove. The key for me is these are things about myself I don't like independent of if women like them. To me the key to self improvement is to change only things that are safe, sustainable, and that you would like to regardless of what others think.

          • flawed

            I recommend to try contacts first, as it is a reversible way to try if you like the no-glasses look.

    • My ideal guy is short*, somewhat round, with glasses. He will wear a vest over a decently nice shirt and fitted jeans. I do not like facial hair, but I know lots and lots of women who do. He will absolutely be brunette.

      Now here's my list of my last three boyfriends: tall and skinny with brown (occasionally red) hair and no glasses, tall, skinny blond with no glasses, medium height, portly blonde with no glasses. Absolutely none of them wore vests.

      In other words: in my experience, physical appearance matters barely at all. They just need to pass a low threshold bar, and then their personality is what carries the day.

      *I could actually care less about height, but whenever I say, guys seem to automatically assume that means I only like tall men and are just covering up.

    • Matty C

      Don't know what your skin is like with regards to sunburn, but I will say that it was something I was initially worried about when shaving my head, but it didn't turn out to be a problem. Your head takes maybe three weeks to tan properly (so the colour matches with the rest of your face), but hell it's one of the best things I've done 🙂 So easy too, after a few practice goes at a shave it'll take five, ten minutes tops in the shower and then you start getting addicted to it lol. You could at least try it once if you haven't already, I mean if you hate it then it turns itself into a buzz-cut in a week or two anyway, so where's the harm in trying?

      Contacts; those were a real pain. Did them for awhile, but it just wasn't worth it (daily disposables are probably a different story, but for various reasons I couldn't get those). The discomfort towards the end of the day; and the discomfort that grows as the contacts get older. Still, YMMV. If you try them and you've never done them before, give it a few weeks to settle in before you decide (unless it obviously isn't working).

      • eselle28

        I know women get a lot of flack for wearing glasses, but is that a thing with guys as well?

        Personally, I think stylish glasses can be a plus.

        • Matty C

          In my experience, not nowadays at all. I've worn glasses my entire life though and went through that phase as a kid where I hated my glasses (being called "four eyes" and all that). Eventually though I started actually caring and getting *stylish* frames for myself.

          Women get flack for wearing glasses? How so? I've honestly never heard of that myself (excluding school/high school of course). Personally I like glasses on women.

          Really, the only 'aesthetic' worry I sometimes have with glasses is that I worry they stop people from seeing my eyes, if that makes any sense at all. Also, contacts do give you a bit more of an immersive experience when compared to glasses and are great if you're doing active stuff like going on rollercoasters 🙂

          • You can get a non-reflective coating on your glasses, so people will always be able to see your eyes.

            My experience has been, wearing glasses seems to make me invisible to a lot of men, except for those who maybe have a glasses fetish. 🙂

          • OldBrownSquirrel

            Dorothy Parker famously quipped, "Men don't make passes at women who wear glasses."

            I respectfully disagree with her on this point. Maybe it's a reflection of the frames that existed in her day.

        • OldBrownSquirrel

          I've always thought of glasses as a plus. Then again, this is one of those "people who live in glass houses" things for me, in an unusually literal sense.

        • Matty C

          You know, while writing a response further down, I got to thinking about the social attitudes towards glasses and realised something.

          Notice how in just about any 'makeover' show (be it a weight loss show, Beauty and the Geek, talk show, whatever) where a guy who has glasses is getting made over. One of the first things that happens and that gets made a big deal of is "getting him contacts". Then you see the big reveal and the before and after shots and ditching the glasses is a big part of the look transformation.

          Even many articles for men on how to improve their looks always seem to include 'get contacts'.

          Is it just that style people hate working with glasses? Stereotypes? I don't know. It kinda made me realise that yeah, when I did really want contacts in the past, that was a big reason why.

          • Matty C

            Just as an aside, yes — this type of advice really frustrates me because contacts aren't really a sustainable option for me and nobody ever seems to address that (except here, where the response to glasses has been positive).

          • eselle28

            That might be one of those areas where fashion as interpreted by stylists differs from fashion in the real world. Makeover shows don't exist just to help people find more stylish clothing. They're going for the most dramatic changes possible. Glasses are a very obvious part of someone's face, so adding or removing them is a very noticeable difference. Also, the people who work on those shows are often going for as close to a high fashion look as possible, which generally means no glasses. And if one of the Geeks has astigmatism, he can bump into things a bit during filming and then go back to glasses when the show's over.

            I doubt this will make you feel better, but makeover shows for women also tend to substitute contacts for glasses, and tend to suggest lots of impractical and high-effort outfits and hairstyles on top of it. They're not very focused on what people can do in their everyday lives.

          • Matty C

            That makes a lot of sense from the 'dramatic change' angle. I hadn't quite thought about it like that before.

    • CmE

      Don't worry about the hair loss. Bald is sexy, or it really can be if you rock it. Short you can't change so don't worry about it.

      But swapping fat for muscle would be really, really good. It says all sorts of good things about you, and it's just plain sexy.

      When it comes to beards some women love them but they are the distinct minority, I think.

  • guest

    Those are right up there with Take it like a man. What we all need to remember are the lessons of George Constanza. Do the opposite: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKUvKE3bQlY

  • Brooke

    “Being yourself – your authentic self – means that first you have to know yourself. Whether you’re happy with yourself or wish things were different, you have to be willing to examine who you are with complete honesty. This means that you have to be willing to accept responsibility for your life; you and you alone are the ultimate arbiter of how you came to be who you are.”

    I disagree, though I might not read it the way it was intended to be read.

    It sounds to me that you’re saying that you’re responsible for who you are, which isn’t true. We do not make ourselves who we are. We can change ourselves, but how we are made is not up to us. Circumstances shape us and I’m not talking about just physical things, but mental things as well.

    • Mel_

      I think the key word there is "ultimate". Yes, circumstances affect who we are, but ultimately, once we're mature adults, it's our responsibility to be aware of how circumstances have affected us and decide how to deal with them. If you think or behave in certain ways that you don't like because of your upbringing, past relationships, etc., then you either decide to let yourself stay that way, or to make an effort to change those ways of thinking and behaving. It's not necessarily going to be easy to change, and it may take a long time to work through certain things, but taking responsibility doesn't mean you instantly shape yourself however you want, only that you recognize that how much effort you put into being any given way is up to you.

  • CmE

    Your forum handle is reboundstudent, right?

    Well, assuming I've got that right, I cannot see anything in the least bit intimidating, condescending, domineering, or bossy in the profile at all. And I'm normally quite attuned to these things. It was a very solid profile that made me chuckle in a couple of places. I didn't like your main profile pic at all, because your eyes are at some weird angle looking away, and it doesn't do your face any favours: I much preferred steampunk batgirl. That's a way better photo apart from the problem that you're not smiling. But that apart, seems fine.

    I've read obviously quite a few of your posts here now and although you talk a lot about being perceived as intimidating and abrasive, I just don't feel it in your tone. Do you think you damp it down when you post here?

    • Ha, well, I was banned from the forums, so obviously there's SOMETHING abrasive about me even here.

      My guess is, I'm decent at communication when I'm not heavily invested. If I start getting emotionally involved, the intensity and adrenaline seem to push my communication style more towards the abrasive/condescending/overly-sensitive side.

      It seems I'm a-okay when dealing with people, unless I care at all about them or their opinion of me. But I'd guess that's a whole other ball of wax than what Anonawoman is dealing with. I just thought the whole "you can't POSSIBLY be intimidating, it's just an excuse cause you suck" thing was tired and not necessarily true.

      • CmE

        If this were the case you'd get lots of initial interest from men, and then they'd start backing out later on as the emotional intensity increases and your behaviour worsens. Is that so?

        If not, it's more likely to be a combination of mental blocking and presentation issues.

        • Just the opposite, actually. I get absolutely NO initial interest from men. I have dated, but only because I relentlessly pursued the guy into a relationship. Examining my history, I'd say that if I can make it past the 2nd date, I'm nearly guaranteed some sort of relationship. (Not always a romantic one; I've had one or two turn into friends-with-benefits, but I'd still probably count it.)

          These usually last about 6 months-1 year, so maybe my emotional intensity explains THAT date range, but it doesn't seem to be an initial problem.

          With that profile you reviewed, I got absolutely zero messages from guys my age. (Maybe one a month from guys 40+ years old.) When I would pursue, I would only get a date maybe 1 out of 5 times… the other 4 would either never respond, or it would turn into a month-long back-and-forth, despite my frequent attempts to meet up.

          So, damn it, there's SOMETHING wrong with me; just apparently can't figure out WHAT.

          • CmE

            Then probably some combination of mental blocking and presentation issues I would guess. By mental blocking I simply mean is your initial mental state upon meeting someone open and accepting, or is it more defensive and hostile? Do you have your shields up initially (perhaps you let them down later)? Are you open to early flirting, and do you flirt yourself? If not you're probably mentally blocking people initially. The fact that you say if you make it to date two things go OK makes me think this might be an issue, since by date two you're more likely to be relaxed and open from the start.

            And when it comes to attracting attention then yes, look at presentation issues. Dress/weight/hairstyle. Yes, there is a huge diversity of attraction triggers but most guys will naturally gravitate towards a norm. If I say I don't like your photos that is a big deal, because I, like most men, am a very visual creature. This is why we watch our porn, on the whole, rather than read it. I will skim-read the text to make sure there are no obvious redflags or deal-breakers and check out the photos more extensively (I mean really, who cares what books you read or what music you listen to: it won't be the same or even close to mine. Who gives a toss?) You have a face with good structure but your main profile pic completely fails to show this off – the steampunk batgirl one does, but you aren't smiling there, which is a bit of a downer. Your smile in two of the others is very timid and doesn't reach your eyes.

            Attraction for me, and I think for a lot of men, boils down to a combination of physical and mental. Sexy dress, the famous waist-to-hip ratio, a good physique, long hair well kept – all that stuff does matter. But equally as important, if not more so, is a warm outgoing smile and a sense that you love your life and world., and are prepared to laugh as you meet its challenges.

            Michelle Jenneke got so much attention for her famous sexy dance not just because of her amazing looks but also because her attitude and confidence are so seductive and transparently beautiful. The smile of a woman in love with herself and the world is a beautiful thing.

  • Artimaeus

    Authenticity has been really challenging for me since I started trying to take more charge of my dating life. I'm not even sure what it means to "be myself" when I's actively pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. I feel like I'm most myself in casual, easygoing situations, and in those situations I have not done badly in the past. I've had a couple of great relationships grow out of just hanging out with a girl, being friends, and discovering a mutual attraction. But I've found that whenever I actually try to approach and hit on women I'm attracted to, it feels ridiculously uncomfortable and stressful, which I expect is why I've never had much luck with it.

    The thing is, I'd like to be able to take my dating life into my own hands and be able to have fun, explore sexuality, and share awesome experiences without the high stakes of my usual friendships-come-relationships. But how does one make this more casual relationship style feel comfortable and authentic?

    • Mel_

      Maybe you can find a balance between the two? e.g., Find easy-going situations where you can socialize with and get to know new women on a regular basis, but ask them out after just knowing them for a little while (2-3 conversations), rather than waiting for your relationship to move from acquaintances to friendship? I'd imagine that would be less stressful than trying to hit on complete strangers, but wouldn't take as much time and investment as only pursuing friends.

      Possible venues: meeting friends of friends if you have some friends who regularly host parties and other get-togethers; a bar or coffee shop you like that encourages regulars; interest-based social groups with regular activities/meetings (depends on your interests–anime club? historical society? indie film festivals?); classes (academic, creative, skill-teaching, whatever).

      Also, I know I advocate online dating a lot, but as a person who finds talking to strangers often uncomfortable and stressful, I find I'm much more at ease when I've gotten to chat with someone at least a little online first. It would mean you already know quite a few topics of conversation that are mutually interesting, and she's already a little invested in the meeting too.

      • Artimaeus

        You're talking sense, though socially, it feels really strange to ask out girls who are in the acquaintance zone, who I've talked to a couple of times, but don't really know. There have been exceptions, where I meet a girl and we just seem click and start flirting almost immediately. But without that incredibly strong signal of initial attraction, making any sort of romantic advance feels kind of clueless and awkward. This could totally be because I'm not picking up on subtler signals in situations where overt flirting isn't appropriate, or I'm awkward and afraid of making my intentions clear when there's some ambiguity.

        I've thought a bit about online dating, just because it seems like a good way to meet people without having to worry about reading intentions (as much) or disrupting social networks. As a college junior, however, meeting people isn't really a problem, with all of the social activities happening on campus, and unless I'm mistaken most of the people using online dating sites are going to be older than me.

        • Mel_

          Well, I like eselle's suggestion of thinking of asking an acquaintance out not as starting some grand romance right off the bat, but just an opportunity to spend some time one-on-one with someone who's caught your interest, get to know them more, and see if chemistry develops. Maybe it would help to pick very low pressure date activities, like just grabbing a coffee or a quick lunch, so it doesn't feel like you're suggesting a more emotionally committed situation than seems appropriate yet.

          As to online dating, I mostly did it when I was 21/22, and there were lots of people my age and even younger. But it may vary from place to place. And I'll note, I was in university at the time, but due to not living on campus and being even more shy and introverted then than I am now, I wasn't interacting much with people outside class.

          • flawed

            Maybe it would help to pick very low pressure date activities, like just grabbing a coffee or a quick lunch, so it doesn't feel like you're suggesting a more emotionally committed situation than seems appropriate yet.

            Welcome on the path into the friend zone!

          • Mel_

            One, the friend zone is not a thing. If a woman isn't interested in you romantically, she's just not interested, and if she is, going out for coffee isn't going to make that interest magically disappear for some weird reason.

            Two, you'll notice I said "date activities". I still think it should be made clear that this isn't just friendly interest, only that the romantic interest is casual (by the sort of date). "E.g., Hey, I really enjoy talking with you. Want to make a date of it and grab coffee after class?” or whatever.

          • flawed

            Well, one coffee date is certainly not going to make that interest disappear,
            but if – say – you're (inadvertently) communicating over months that for don't want more, you shouldn't be surprised if the woman picks another boyfriend, even if she might've been interested in the beginning.

            See also http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2012/06/avoiding-fr
            "Avoiding The Friend Zone", especially the descriptions of friend zones v.2 and v.3.

            I did notice you said "date activities", but I also noticed "low pressure", and your choice of activities are just the ones with a lot of plausible deniability- take the pressure out of the situation by not making your intentions explicit. After all, friends to these activities too, all the time!

            So, as the Doctor recommends over and over again, you also have be very explicit that this is a DATE – not just "hey, wanna grab a coffee?" – and you have to be especially clear with these kinds of "low pressure" activities.

          • Mel_

            Er, you're putting a lot of words in my mouth, and ignoring the ones I did say. I didn't advocate keeping it super casual for months on end, just for the initial "asking out" which was what Artimaeus talked about having trouble with, and I said to keep it low pressure to avoid seeming like he wanted a bunch of emotional commitment, not so he could pretend he wasn't asking her out at all. And you'll notice in the comment you're responding to, I explicitly said he should use the word date, and used the word date in my example phrasing. I also have already suggested to him that he *not* wait until he's friends with women before asking them out. So where exactly do you disagree with me? I think I was being pretty clear.

    • eselle28

      I wonder if this is partially a matter of reframing things. Are relationships that are different than your past ones inauthentic, or are they just uncomfortable and unfamiliar? The customs about asking for dates may feel a little false if you're not used to them, but I don't think they're much different than making small talk with business associates or the various behaviors we classify as good manners. They're the social glue that make personal interactions go more smoothly. The things they're sticking together are the authentic interactions, and once you start dating, you usually fall into a natural way of behaving around the other person.

      I think you may get past the feelings of discomfort as you ask more women out and it becomes a more familiar process. I'd agree asking out acquaintances might feel more natural than a complete cold approach. It could also help to think about the first date as a chance to get to know someone you already find interesting as a person, and not just as a chance to hit on an attractive woman.

      I'd also recommend online dating if you find talking to strangers stressful, but I will note that it's the most structured way of dating and will probably feel very artificial at first. The good news is that the interactions don't take place in real time, so you can take a few hours to catch your breath and think about how you'd like to respond if you start to feel overwhelmed.

      • Artimaeus

        Whenever I think about this, the stumbling block seems to be whether my discomfort is stemming from a fundamental distaste for more casual, low-stakes relationships, or mere unfamiliarity with the social conventions surrounding them. The way I see it, the only way I know how to do this is to try, but I feel like I'm being sabotaged by my own discomfort.

        It's not that I have trouble talking to strangers or meeting people. I'd say I make pretty good first impressions. It's just that trying to actually ask a girl out or make any sort of romantic advance feels incredibly weird if I'm not already friends, or wasn't any strong, immediate, mutual, and unambiguous attraction.

        • eselle28

          Just on a side point, a relationship that begins with a man asking a woman out isn't necessarily casual. It doesn't have the potential fallout of a crush on a friend, but those relationships can get serious as quickly as the other sort.

          It sounds like you might want to add some flirting and mild teasing (there are several good articles about that on the site) into the mix before you move to the step where you ask a girl out. That can be awkward at first too, but with some practice it can be fun and can be a way to build some sort of attraction between the two of you. It's also a good way of testing whether a woman is simply being friendly to you, or if there's some potential romantic interest.

          I'll withdraw the suggestion of online dating. It's a good option for many people, but I'd agree that it's not going to be very helpful for a college student. That's better left until after graduation.

        • Becelec

          Also consider that maybe asking someone out cold just isn't your thing? Dating isn't for everyone, and if it feels weird to you to ask out someone you don't feel like you know very well, maybe that's instinct talking. I think dating puts a lot of pressure on people to force a romantic outcome when it should just happen naturally, so I find the whole experience weird and uncomfortable and I avoid it, and my relationships form in other more natural ways. Maybe deep down you feel that way too? If you don't have problems forming relationships through other avenues, and it is only this specific thing that makes you uncomfortable, could it be that it's not really something that appeals to you, you just aren't totally aware of it yet?

          • Artimaeus

            You see, part of me actually agrees with this, and I probably would have argued the best sort of relationships are those that rise organically through the process of getting to know another person. That is, until I became single again, at which point I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be able to start relationships without having to go through this process.

            In my mind, at least, the trouble is that my lifestyle I'm living is fairly transitory. I'm busy with school and activities, bouncing between social groups, just like most of the other people I know, and I'd like to change my approach to romance in order to reflect that fact. That's not to say that I wouldn't want to see romance grow from an already strong friendship, but at the moment I just don't see any of my platonic relationships going that way (which, incidentally, is my judgment as much as theirs), and that seems like something that will happen (or not) more or less outside of my attempts to try it,

            I do feel genuinely weird about approaching someone who don't really feel like I know well. But, to be perfectly honest, I suspect this has more to do with my not wanting to take the initiative, risk rejection, and generally reveal so much of myself and my intentions to someone who I don't know or trust, and who might not give me the benefit of the doubt.

            I guess what's bothering me is, in the quest to be authentic, do we listen to our discomfort or try to conquer it?

          • enail

            I don't know, I'm not sure discomfort is really that connected to authenticity. I'd say authentic is about not compromising your values and not lying about or denying your feelings, qualities and preferences. Acting inauthentic causes discomfort, true, but so do a whole lot of other things that I wouldn't say have anything to do with being authentic.

            I don't see that trying something that isn't "you" creates a risk of being inauthentic, unless you're the kind of person who has a hard time telling what you feel and what you value without external moorings. Either you'll decide you don't enjoy it and will drop it, or you'll get to like it and make it a part of you; most people have enough sides that they can act in a variety of ways without supressing who they are.

          • eselle28

            I'm going to vote for neither of those options. If you never try anything that's even slightly uncomfortable, you'll end up leading a fairly dull life. If your attitude is to conquer discomfort at all costs, you're eventually going to end up violating some of your own boundaries, which is a feeling I wouldn't recommend to anyone.

            What about exploring your discomfort, instead? It sounds like you're thinking of a fairly small number of experiences. I think it's worth it to continue to ask women out, to see if the experience becomes any more comfortable once it's no longer so new. As for authenticity, one way of determining whether something is a wrong choice for you is seeing how you feel about it even when you get a moderately good result. If you're only judging based on experiences that include failure or rejection, I think there's some risk of mixing up disliking those things with discomfort with the process itself. On the other hand, if you end up going on a few pleasant dates with a pleasant woman and then on a few more with some other woman and it still feels all wrong, then you might just have a relationship style that's only compatible with starting as friends.

            Since you don't have any friends who you're interested in dating right now and you're in a situation where you don't have trouble meeting new people, I'd say it's the perfect time to experiment with this and learn a little bit about yourself.

          • HLM

            Your discomfort is a part of who you are right now and so it is a part of your authenticity. But authenticity is more about owning all the things in there proper place and then expressing yourself in a way that is congruent with that. So you have discomfort. You are afraid of rejection. You don’t want to take the initiative. You don’t want to reveal too much of yourself. Ok. Own all of that. But what else? This is the important part. Are there any others things that matter more to you than those? Perhaps:

            You want to share yourself with someone and to be truly known before you die. And you know that requires sharing yourself.

            You want to find someone else who you connect with and doing so affirms what you want more than not reaching out to others.

            You want to have a good time with another person and you realize that requires participating in creating a good time and that other people not participating well or equally or at all doesn’t necessarily mean something about you. Showing you want to have some fun says something important about who you are right now and what you want.

            In which case, own it all, and align your actions with what matters most.

            Also trying something new can be authentic. It’s not the thing itself that is authentic but rather you’re doing that thing because you want something and the activity is an expression of that want and therefore authentic.

            Being authentic embraces all the things and aligns you with what matters most. Here is what I am and what I want to be.

  • DaLilBlueBoy

    Oh my goodness this was great!!! You present such good stuff doc.

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